Short Stack #23

Maple Syrup on PancakesIf we had evolved from deer, I wonder if we’d all get out of school and jobs for several weeks in the fall, so the guys could scratch their horns against trees, and get in fights.


I’m imagining that we first-worlders will have to switch over to strict vegetarian diets as population continues to increase, and third-worlders will switch over to grass.

Fortunately, they will be provided with a genetically engineered digestive enzyme that will allow them to eat the grass, at least enough that they will still have sufficient energy to reproduce. Because god help us if people don’t have their “right” to have children.

But also fortunately, we will be able to kill off just about every other large mammal on earth and take over that vital living space. Because hey, fuck them, right? They’re ANIMALS.

Wait, you don’t want to kill off those animals? … Why do you hate the starving babies? They’re BABIES, and they’re STARVING. Why do you want to kill them? Why? What’s wrong with you?


Idea Book: Some talented artist out there, I’d love to see superheros done as Smurfs. Iron Smurf, Spider Smurf, Smurftain America, the Smurftastic Four!

I’m especially eager to see the Silver Smurfer and S’mor (Thor).


So when are we getting the nanites that give us extra strength, rapid healing and superior vision and hearing?

Because I’m READY.


If nobody knew about milk, and you suddenly showed up and said “Hey, I drink this whitish, greasy liquid I squeeze out of the underside of those big smelly animals over there!” …

I’m pretty sure somebody would say “Eww, you filthy, gross bastard!”

Come to think of it, you might even get arrested, charged with bestiality or something.

Especially if you accidentally pointed at a bull.


My heart goes out to all the victims of ebola. It’s bad enough that you have this horrible deadly disease, but even worse when people quarantine and marginalize you. That’s why I’m starting my new campaign of compassion, “Hug An Ebola Victim.”

We need to let them know we still care.


I think it would be fun to see a TV show called “History’s Assholes.”

Dear History Channel …


In the alternate universe where superheroes are real …

What do superhero comics look like?

Because if they’re just illustrated adventures of the real superheroes, they’re sort of like People Magazine, aren’t they? And what 15-year-old boy would read THAT?


One of my cowboy friends, Tom Wood, got malignant melanoma and died of it. I was going through a stack of old papers and came across one of the last letters he wrote me.

“Dear Hank: It was good to talk to you last night. Sorry I wasn’t quite with it, but I get drowsy in the evening from my pain medication. Since my surgery I have just been taking it real easy.”

It’s dated 1986. He died 28 years ago. I can still remember the sound of his voice, the feel of his handshake, all his likes — Australian country music, darts, Irish Cream — and dislikes. He was one of the cowboy “gearheads,” the guy who has to have all the cool wild rags, hats, dusters, belts, boots, etc. Hell, he had his own branding iron pattern, a T-hanging-W.

He died at the age of 39. At the time he was about 5 years older than me, but now he seems like an idiot kid.

Death is weird. And I miss the dopey bastard.


I’m glad they fly ebola victims back to the U.S. Because after they’re infected with a deadly disease, we really need to Bring Them Home.

And that charter flight … I do hope they clean that plane with fanatical care. Although I hear the Cheney family is looking for a nice comfy jet to travel to a private island retreat.


Reality TV Series: Ten C-list actors and actresses and two stand-up comics are cloistered together on a gated Hollywood estate, with a pool, tennis courts, jacuzzi and such. Hidden cameras are everywhere, and the group stays together for 21 days.

A grounds-keeper with ebola is introduced on the third day.

I’m pretty sure there would be Madcap Hijinks.


Other than that, Mrs. Kennedy, how did you like Dallas?


So if Superman was your daddy (by a Hollywood starlet, say, who wanted the publicity), and he was still using a secret identity, would your last name be Superman?

Bobby Superman. Michelle Superman. LaQuonda Nadine Superman. Pemberton Braithwaite Superman.

And would they get along with Elliott and Roxanne Luthor?


If you’re not willing to try Brain Piercing, you’re not hard core.


Ha. I was just thinking of writing a fake news story in which the little-known U.S. Government Office of Gravity altered the gravity at different times and in different places in order to favor business and manipulate private citizens. For instance, during the armed standoff at Waco, the office turned up the gravity in that area so bullets fired at federal agents would fall short. And on election day, the gravity near certain polling places is turned up so minority voters will be too tired to vote.

Bet I could get people to believe it.

Besides which, I’m pretty sure the gravity was up to 1.5 Gs where I was today. Obama!!!


Flasher Philosophy:

“I’ll show you mine if … Aw, screw it, I’ll just show you mine.”


Aw, come on. If I was REALLY living in a Fool’s Paradise, there would be a lot more Batman T-shirts, ice cream, water slides and big funny hats.


Back when the guillotine was so busy during the French Revolution … do you suppose they washed and disinfected the blade after each use?


But what would you do for TWO Klondike bars?


Back in the days of Rome, it must have been pretty funny when someone lit a candle and those balls of fire started shooting out every few seconds.

I guess we’re lucky today that we only have to use them for Fourth of July.


What would zoos look like if we assumed elephants were sentient beings?

Seriously, I’ve wondered for years why we don’t have a 30-million-dollar project to really map elephant intelligence and cognition. And then treat all other elephants according to what we find out.


Another great day when, once again, you didn’t wake up with the police pounding on your door.

They’re probably still collecting evidence.


If robins made a sound like jackhammers … mornings would be a lot less fun.


If there was a trillion-to-one chance that you could get struck by lightning, and then you got struck by lightning, you’d almost HAVE TO assume there was some special intent involved. “What’s behind this? What caused it? Who did it? And why?”

But the thing is, given the population of planet earth and the frequency of lightning strikes, sooner or later somebody DOES get struck by lightning.

To the rest of us, it’s nothing special. But to THAT guy, it’s got to feel significant.

Somewhere in this is a lesson about all of life: “It’s probably not about you.”



I’m sitting in a local coffee shop this afternoon, reading and kicking back, when I hear raised voices. One of the local street characters is SHOUTING at the little girl behind the counter. I realize I’ve been hearing them for a bit, gradually escalating, and now he’s yelling “Whatchu mean, call the pow-leece?! Whatchu gonna tell the pow-leece?” He storms out.

I’m thinking “WTF? Who has to get this excited in a COFFEE SHOP in sleepy little Schenectady, New York?”

Thinking about it, though, I realize it probably has nothing to do with this moment and this place. It’s about his whole life, and the trap he’s found himself in — a trap that he no doubt contributed to, as we all do, but that also has some large element of the outside world at fault.

But I do not know what I can do about that today. I read my book, finish my coffee, and go about my life.


Just wait ‘til I release MY secret tapes.

I think the 1/2-inch transparent is going to really turn heads, but it’s the double-sided 3/4-inch foam-core picture-hanging variety that’s really going to blow the lid off. Brace yourself, world.


Dang it, they fired me from my supermarket produce-department job. Hey, I thought the sign over the bananas saying “SWEET AND JUICY!!!” was a real attention-getter.


In any issue of science and public health, there’s the science, and there’s the socio-cultural system in which the science is carried out.

If you talk to pro-GMO people about GMOs, they’re only willing to discuss the science issue. They’re not willing to talk about the social matrix where the science happens.

The social matrix includes the fact that the scientists are working for somebody, they’re paid to do certain things. Being a scientist does not necessarily imply ethicality. We like to think it does, but it doesn’t.

The companies those scientists work for have mandates that are only peripherally concerned with your health and safety, and centrally concerned with profits. They don’t want to get sued and lose money, but there are times it’s cheaper to fight it in court and put off a settlement as long as possible than it is to pay damages — or even to proactively head off the problem ahead of time. That happens all the time. Cheaper to pay off politicians to change the laws.

The “you” in your head is centrally important to you, literally the most important thing in the universe. By extreme contrast, though we don’t like to think it, there are people about whom you literally don’t care anything. They might die in a speed-boat accident, and you might see the video of the accident and think only how funny it was. The idea of their fear, severe injury, drowning and bleeding to death at the same time, and being wholly conscious and terrified as it happened, would probably not even occur to you. It’s a sort of de facto sociopathy, but it’s also normal, because none of us can know or care about every stranger.

The thing about any corporation is that it’s run by people to whom YOU are the speed-boat victim. They not only don’t care about you, they CAN’T. This is a hard thing to realize for some of us. Those of us who think Science can do no wrong, they deliberately assert that every company dealing in GMOs must care so much that they would never let anything happen to precious us. When the opposite has been demonstrated — in every industry — over and over and over, thousands of times.


I have in mind a new TV show, but I’m not sure who to pitch it to. It’s sort of a mashup of Breaking Bad, Twilight and The Walking Dead.

The sparkley vampires are made out of pure cocaine, and the crack-addict zombies want to snort them. And there’s a love story.


If you meet someone from India for the first time, you should immediately ask them a question about your computer. Because man, those people know computers.


I’m thinking of a pattern (or style, or color) of paint called Blood Spatter. Thinking how fun it would be to have a truck painted that color. A spray of blood over the hood, one off the left side of the front bumper, maybe one over the roof. The laughs would just never stop.

I suppose others might disagree. After all, my Car-Top Baby Carrier never caught on.


It was common for my mom to get mad at me when I got hurt. By the time I was 12, I was regularly concealing injuries and accidents so I wouldn’t have to deal with the uproar. I once fell off a 10-foot church roof — onto my head and neck (no snickers, you bastards) — and my first impulse after I was able to get up was to hide.

I suppose this MIGHT be what informs my feeling today about “victim blaming.” If I walk out into heavy traffic and a car hits me, it seems to me that it’s partly my fault. If someone says “What the hell were you thinking? Never walk out there like that without looking!” and then someone else chirps “Oh no, you’re VICTIM BLAMING!!” … I’m not going to see that second person as the truest friend.

If something happens to you and you contributed in any way to the situation … yes, you do need to make better decisions next time. And other people need to be told so THEY can make better decisions for the future. This does NOT mean I think drivers should have perfect freedom to run over anybody they want. It does mean I think we live in the real world, and that nobody gets a free pass on the consequences of their own contributory actions.

I just can’t see it as black and white. There’s a lot of discussional space between “this is totally your fault” and “nothing is your fault, ever; it’s all THEIR fault.”

But in some circles, a desire for those gradations of nuance makes me a monster.


Enough of this “day” shit.

I will now go into the Sleep Chamber to lie on a resilient surface, pass into a temporary state of unconsciousness, and probably rise several times in the night to jettison liquid wastes before becoming fully conscious again when daylight reappears.

There may be fantastic images experienced internally, but I’m told that’s normal. There are no real killer Pez dispensers, and the screaming, bloody clowns will not actually eat me. (The flying Mardi Gras floats, though, I think those are real.)


Driving drunk. At night. While texting. In a snowstorm. With headphones. And no seat belt. You should get Expert Driver Points if you do this and don’t have an accident. Because hey, we all know there’s a penalty if you have an accident. Why isn’t there a reward if you DON’T??


If we’d evolved from cats, the term “hacker” would have a whole different meaning.


The suckiest thing about life is that you can’t do EVERYTHING. I hate having to think about doing ONE thing.

There are people out there who spend their entire careers being barbers, or carpenters, or cheesemakers. Or hell, even nuclear physicists.

I’d kill myself.


Well, if I’m going to have a pet bear, it’s going to have to happen in the next year or two. Otherwise, I’ll be too old to join him in a drunken mauling spree on his birthday.

Regarding which, it must be truly terrible when you wake up and discover that not only did you maul people the night before, but you also have a KILLER hangover.


Every writer knows what it’s like to write half a story. There should be an International Half Story Contest.

One of my half-stories was about a pet shop that sold genetically engineered birds that you could teach to sing real songs. They’d listen to you or music you supplied, then shyly sing part of one line. Later they’d pick up more and more, until eventually they’d do the whole thing. But each bird could only learn one song. And once they learned it, they’d never stop. So they were instant successes as merchandise, and later VERY popular for regifting.

Nothing more than feelings,
Trying to forget my feelings of love
Rolling down on, my face
Trying to forget my, feelings of love
For all my life I’ll feel it
I’ll wish I’ve never met you, girl
You’ll never come again
Wo-o-o feelings
Wo-o-o feelings
Again in my heart ….

–>OVER and OVER and OVER<–


I had a friend who had a sled dog kennel. The dogs were visibly happy to pull sleds. But when I borrowed one of the dogs and started taking him with me on dog hikes, and then later couldn’t do it anymore, he got visibly depressed.

He (Walter was his name, after some football player) didn’t like pulling the sled anymore. The owner told me later he considered having him put down. It took a long time, after I stopped taking him out, before he readjusted.

One of the funny things I noticed at first was that he didn’t know how to run. Racing with my two dogs, he would thrust with both back legs together, a really odd-looking motion. It was the only way he knew to move, the gait he needed for sled pulling, which was the only time he got to run. He did that for our first two or three outings before he started trying a regular gallop.

He also didn’t know what running water was. We walked over a tiny stream, maybe a foot across, and he shied back from it. My two dogs and I just kept on going, and Walter took a running leap over it, probably four or five feet in the air. Later when he saw the other two drinking from a creek, he came up and drank from it, then danced in the cold water for a good five minutes or so, excited, delighted. He had discovered creek water! The water he got was always in a dirty pan, and only enough to hydrate, and frequently tasting of chicken broth. And in winter, always hot.

He didn’t know how to be a dog. This is always in my mind when I see the annual happy uproar over the Iditarod. Those dogs look like they love it. But I know how different they’d feel if they knew anything OTHER than pulling sleds.


I worked for a Swiss Master Baker for a couple of years, training to be a pastry chef. Something I quickly learned about him was that he NEVER went out to eat. The reason: He was a true gourmet. I could bolt down a burger and fries at McDonald’s and know no different, but HE knew what really good food was, and nothing you could get in a restaurant was ever good enough for his tastes.

I was thinking about that after I posted the previous thing about sled dog Walter.

It seems to me that, if you have nothing more than the common judgmental criteria about the well-being of dogs or cats, anything that anybody does to or with them is pretty much okay with you. Breed them down to toys, deliberately make them hairless, tweak them into interesting dwarf forms, give them huge wrinkles or ponderous jowls or crushed faces or ears so long they trip over them, and it’s all the same. They’re cute, they’re funny. As long as they SEEM happy, you’re okay with it.

But maybe once you become a connoisseur of dogness, of dog feelings and welfare, you start to feel that “happy” isn’t quite good enough. Because there’s the “happy” they have because they can never know any different, and there’s the gourmet-level –>HAPPY<– they might have if they were healthy, active and free to be dogs.

I’m one of those second people. The things people do to dogs disturbs me a great deal. Even when I see a happy little lap dog, I sometimes murmur, “Little one, I’m so sorry they did this to you.”


Waiting for the day they can animate tattoos. I’m still not getting one, but it will be interesting to see what sorts of stupid things people decide to get.

And where are the moving graphics on clothing? If nothing else, you could wear a white t-shirt and have sycophants orbiting around you with small projectors.


I’m imagining a Friend Library, where you could go in and browse the collection, then pick a friend to take home for a few hours or days. You could go out to eat, go to movies, go for a hike or a bike ride. Then when you were done, you’d just take ‘em back and turn ‘em in. If it was after hours, you’d just drop them in the slot.

Probably work for orphan kids too.


Why do we have seeing-eye dogs? They take so long to train, and I don’t think their lives are all that good.

It’s not like we don’t have huge numbers of unemployed people who could be guides. English-speaking guides, guides who can see traffic and relate obstacles to the sightless more effectively than dogs.


A friend tells me he’s getting married, and the wedding is going to cost the parents more than $20,000. I tell him “Make a deal with them. Tell them you’ll run off to Vegas and get married for a couple of hundred bucks, if they’ll give you half the wedding cost.”

There are entire industries out there that are scams. The lottery industry. The diamond industry. The funeral industry. To me, the wedding industry feels a lot like that.

Just get married. Throw a big potluck barbecue in somebody’s back yard. Everybody wear blue. Toss a Frisbee around. Have ice chests full of beer and sodas. Hire a photographer. The money you save, put it down on a house.


I think a baby raccoon would make a very cool pet. If you had time for it. Otherwise it would be a bundle of destruction and mayhem.


If Marvel Comics’ Rogue — the mutant who has the power to briefly absorb other mutant’s powers by touching them — crossed comic universes and met up with Superman … would she become super?


One of my many theories of life is that — at whatever age you now are — you contain within you personas of all your previous ages.

Each of those personas requires some handling. You don’t have to allow your 5-year-old, or your 15-year-old, to run things, but you do have to recognize it exists, and either mollify or discipline it. But it does seem to me that you can allow earlier selves a little free rein every now and then, to maintain optimal mental health.

This is absolutely the only reason I make the occasional adolescent-level joke, and engage — at extremely rare intervals — in the f-bomb.

Also: Farts. Poopie. Ta-tas.